The Tamgaly Tas is an area near the river of Ili located in 120 kilometers to north from the city of Almaty (in 20 kilometers south to the Kapchagai reservoir by the road to Bakanas) where were saved various petroglyphs and images of mysterious idols and late Buddhist inscriptions. There were saved nearly 1000 various images on the rocks. Apart from the Buddhist images and inscriptions there is one ancient Turkic runic inscription of 8th-9th centruries presumably carved by the Kipchaks. The Buddhist images date back to approximately 14th – 16th centuries.
The composition consists of five images and writings placed on three big rocks. The images are carved in accordance to the canons that were largely distributed and saved for a very long time. Inscriptions and text placed next to each other have not been translated yet. Several writings can be read was prayerful formula “mani padme hum”.
The features of the inscriptions state that this image was created earlier that the main site. The setup of the interior complies with overall concept of the temple. Walking through big stones a person finds himself in front of a separate stone with image of Buddha with snakes. In traditions of South-Eastern Asia such frightening images fence off evil spirits and do not let in people with evil thoughts. Only waking through the Buddha a person can come up to the centre of the site.
Among all images of Tamgaly-Tas the most famous ones are three images of the Buddha. The first one is bodhissatva (an animal or person in Buddhism which decided to become a Buddha for the sake of all animals) Avalokiteshvara with height of 2,5 meters. It sits in a diamond pose on lotus flower with four hands. The front hand is folded for prayer, he holds a crystal string of beads with the right rear hand, in the left hand there is a lotus flower with long stalk. On the right of it in four meters height there is Shakyamuni Buddha with size of 1 meter and with following inscription “I worship the Shakyamuni Buddha”. On his left hand there is a cup for alms. The right hand is lowered with palm to itself. This jesture calls Earth to witness. There is Amitabha Buddha (the most respected figure in the Pure Land Buddhism) on the left side. The size of the image is also 1 meter. It sits on throne of lotus and holds a casket filled with remedy nectar in the left hand. Lowered right hand with palms to spectators with the gesture of return holds fruit of Golden myrobalan. This plant is an Indian almond, a pagoda-tree, a king of all remedy preparations from psychic and physical illnesses. There is an inscription: “I worship for Buddha Mahayana”.
There are several versions of how these images were created in the banks of the river of Ili. According to one of the legends, in the 10th century one of Buddhist missions stayed on the banks of the river of Ili during trip to the region of Semirechye an earthquake took place and big piece of rock fell. That was assumed as a sign to return to India. Three images of Buddha were carved on the split off rock. According to other version, the enscriptions were made by the Kalmyks on “todorkhoi nomyn bichig” (“clean literature letter”), that was created by Zae Pandita Ogtorguin in 1648 and was used more than three centuries by the nomad Mongols who carved the images of Buddha.
The first serious explorations in the gauge of Tamgaly were conducted by Chokan Valikhanov. In 1856 he was there and thoroughly described them. In the end of the 19th century N.N.Pantusov, scientist and orientalist, conducted detailed research of the images of Buddha. He defined the ages of the images in accordance with the surnames of historical persons mentioned in the inscriptions. They were carved nearly 500 years ago during “Tibet invasion”. In the 70s of 20th century the inscriptions and images of the Tamgaly-Tas were explored by A.K.Margulan, well known Kazakh archeologist. He could to systematize existing translations of the inscriptions. He expressed assumption about Junggar origin of whole composition and stated that the monument dated back to the 17th-18th centuries.